Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Edge of Tomorrow" Explained -- with Infographics

This latest sci-fi offering from Tom Cruise is a rare gem. It has all the ingredients of a great summer blockbuster and then more. Sure it’s got cool exoskeleton suit, lots of explosion and exotic aliens. But it also has interesting characters with good character development and surprisingly intelligent narrative. I've always been a sucker for movies involving time travel, especially time loops. So I usually end up over-analyzing the plots to see whether they make sense based on their own logic and premises. 

It’s the same case with "Edge of Tomorrow". With the premise of "Groundhog Day" meets "Starship Troopers", the plot can get quite convoluted. Throughout most of the movie, the plot is pretty air-tight. However, the ending left some viewers a bit disappointed. While I personally enjoy the ending, I can see why many people think it does not make much sense. In the first glance it does feel like it is breaking its own rule. Some say it's just lazy scriptwriting and yielding to pressures to come up with a happy ending. 

However, after long contemplation and being immersed in deep thought, I think I have found an explanation that may – well – explain how the ending came to be. What I am about to tell you may sound crazy. But the longer I talk, the more rational it gets. *wink*

In case it's not clear already, this article will be full of spoilers and even more expositions that only true geek could care. 

The First Loop
Let’s start with the “fact” mentioned in the movie:
  • ·         If you kill an Alpha, time will be reset to a certain point in the past.
This is how the Mimics are always able to stay one step ahead of the humans. They learn from their mistakes and adapt accordingly in the next iteration. It seems that the only one aware of the loop is the organism that gets killed, while the rest of the universe is oblivious to it. Since all the Mimics are somehow telepathically controlled by the Omega, this could explain how the Omega is also aware of the loop. 

Expanding from this, I'm guessing that they cannot jump back to any arbitrary point in the past. It seems that the starting point cannot go further than 24 hours (give or take). My conjecture is that the Alphas (and the Omega) are continuously “recording” reality as it progress through time. However they have limitation. They only have enough “memory” for recording the last 24 hours of reality. Think of it like a Digital Video Recording that continuously records TV broadcast but only have enough space for 24-hour video. Thus older content are automatically purged.

When Cage kills the Alpha and absorbs its power, he is then thrown into the beginning of the recording, which is the moment when he wakes up on Heathrow tarmac. (It could be that the exact starting point is actually some time earlier while he is still unconscious).

Intermediate Loops
It appears that Cage only inherits the power to return to the starting point, but he doesn’t have the power to continue recording.  This would explain why he keeps starting at the same point in time even though he eventually manages to stay alive longer and longer.  Another curious thing is that the Alpha killed by Cage no longer appears in any subsequent loops.  It could be that the movie simply doesn’t show it again, but I’d like to think that this is deliberate and part of the rule of this time-looping mechanism. Hence, this is my postulate:
  • Under a particular condition (perhaps when it's time manipulating organ is blown to pieces and its blood all scattered around) an Alpha would cease to exist from any timeline.
So, under normal circumstances, when an Alpha gets killed, it will be back alive at the beginning of the loop. However, something particular happens when Cage (and Vrataski) kills the Alpha. Not only they absorb the time-looping ability, but the Alpha from which they got the power is completely removed from existence.

The Ending

After the blood transfusion, Cage no longer has looping ability from the Alpha. However, when he kills the Omega, he was once again soaked in that time-manipulating goo. Thus Cage is thrown back to the starting point of the Omega’s recording. Notice that the event happens few hours before the beach assault. Therefore the starting point is also few hours earlier. It’s the time when Cage wakes up in the helicopter just before he arrives in UDF headquarter.  

Just like before, because the time-looping power is somehow transferred to Cage, the Omega ceases to exist. That is why the death of the Omega becomes effective also in the past.Without a central mind to govern them, all other Mimics cannot survive and die on their own. 

Final Note:

I personally don't like the use of alien blood as the mechanism for time travel. I think it's too ... physical. If it were me I'd visualize the transfer of the power with some kind of energy wave or bubble that is released when the Alpha is blown up. Being engulfed in that energy causes someone to absorb the ability. As for the mechanism for losing the ability, I prefer something like electric shock, such as getting tasered or through the use of defibrillator.


Roman Rodák said...

Omega resets time only when alpha is killed to save him.
You say alpha ceases to exist permanently after it is killed.
These two things together doesn't make sense, although it's the most believable explanation so far.

Reza Lesmana said...

Well, under normal circumstances Alpha still exists after it is killed. Perhaps only when it's blown to pieces it's permanently gone. I know, this rule is a bit forced. I can't think of anything else

Felix Gervits said...

One thing that doesn't sit well with me is that at the end it seemed like the humans were preparing for battle with the aliens. It was said on the news that an explosion of energy weakened them significantly and that they were going in for the final battle to finish it off. You would think that if all the mimics were destroyed in the explosion that there would be none left and that the news stations would be reporting a global victory for the humans. But this is not the case - evidently there are still aliens. Now how can there still be aliens if the Omega was destroyed? The Omega is said to be the brain and central nervous system so the mimics can't exist without it. It then follows that the Omega is still alive in the future timeline, but how can this be? One possibility is that it was able to reset time as it was destroyed (like the power of the Alphas), which would essentially make it immortal. It is true that Cage came into contact with the Omega blood as he was dying so perhaps he inherited the power of the Omega too. How this power differs from the Alphas is not explained by the movie so it remains unknown. It is also unclear whether the Alpha disappears after its blood is transfered to another being...I think that Cage became the Omega after he came into contact with its blood. This would explain why the aliens were still around in the final timeline - since the Omega still existed in the form of Cage.

My view is that the Omega predicted that Cage would inevitably destroy it. It saw this future and thus intentionally let itself be destroyed by Cage in the water. Granted, killing Cage after the blood transfusion would also achieve its goal so it certainly tried to do this. But it's last resort was to be killed by Cage and then transfer its blood to the human such that Cage was now the Omega! This would explain why the aliens were still around in the final timeline - since the Omega still existed in the form of Cage. The difference in this timeline is that Cage would never meet the general, never participate in the battle and never be able to stop the Omega from achieving its objective. Whether Cage knows about his power in the final timeline is unclear, but I think he is ultimately at he mercy of the parasitic alien race.

Sorry for the bloated response but I really like your graphs and they got me thinking. I'd be curious to know what you think about all this.

Reza Lesmana said...

Hi Felix,
Thanks for the response.
I didn't realize the Mimics were still alive at the ending. I think I need a second viewing.
Perhaps, we could borrow an analogy where the Omega is the Mainframe, while other regular Mimics are just dumb terminals. So when the Omega is gone, the Mimics are not necessarily dead too, they just become clueless :).
The theory that Cage is now the Omega is quite popular too. That could of course explain everything. Although I found your particular version a bit too complicated. Well, no worries :) no theory is wrong until it's proven otherwise.

Felix Gervits said...

I think the movie made it clear that the mimics, Alphas and the Omega are all one race so if the brain is destroyed then they all die. When the Omega was destroyed under the museum all the mimics outside were also destroyed. So if there really are mimics still alive at the end of the movie then I would speculate that the Omega is still alive - either in its traditional form or as Cage.

I give the alien race in this movie a lot of credit and consider it to be basically immortal. Since it has the power to revert time the Omega is a prescient being that can prevent any attempt to destroy it. Recall that it knew about Cage and his power, so I find it unlikely that it would let him make it all the way to Paris and succeed in his mission.

But you're right, there are no answers here - only theories.

LP Shots said...

I heard that this movie was based on a manga. Maybe the manga (all you need is kill) can explain a few things? Lol

LP Shots said...

Btw i enjoyed your review!

Reza Lesmana said...

thx LP Shots.
I believe the original work is a light novel/novella. The manga is also an adaptation.
Anyway, I heard the novel does give more detailed explanation about the Mimics. However the movie seems to diverge significantly, so it may not be consistent with the novel.
But yeah, I'd love to get my hand on the novel or manga.

Fernando Palomares said...

I agree, the alpha ceases to exist and so does the Omega. although they are extremely rare (1 in 6.7 million or so) t here is more than one Alpha. Even if they were only a handful, they are the eyes and ears of the Omega running thw whole operation. It would make sense that at least one Alpha should hang around with the Omega if this one is under attack.

Maury Manna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maury Manna said...

Indeed, if you can remember, General is saying that the army is advancing through the battlefield WITHOUT any resistance, giving us the idea that there are no more aliens in the planet. About the different starting point, i could say that, when Cage killed the omega, he becomes the omega(instead of a mere alpha)and return to his own inflection point: The moment of his arrival to the UDF headquarter. As he (and Rita earlier) took the place of the alpha, he did so with the omega.

Unknown said...

I agree with Felix. The victory is a trap. Cage now "became" Omega, permitting alien race to further analyse humanity before their final attack. A second episode would be highly interesting built on this idea of Omega-Cage trap (A la Oblivionesque ending).

Burg Which said...

Wtf? I know what happened in the film I just fucking watched it. The basic rewind time travel is also not complicated and easily understood. Why the hell are you regurgitating the obvious. Problem with the end is that the 24 hours loop was broken with no explanation in the final time travel. Also, some how magically excludes the omega.
your not even asking the right questions here. And deeply confused about the core premise of a single timeline time traveling. Here. To get started
1. Is the time reset voluntary(of free will) by omega or is it a involuntary reflex, as the script seems to suggest but never made clear. this makes a huge difference in both logic and consistency of the script. You can not even begin to understand the ending without this info.
2. In single time line "rewind" time travel, you can not change the past only the future which the film chooses to ignore.
We can go on and on since time travel inherently presupposes ungrounded premises. But I was just focusing on the end and going along with basic premise of the film but it still made no sense.
It was a lazy last minute script change, obviously, and no way around the inconsistencies.

Tim Bradberry said...


The Omega is some alien brain that evolved on a planet completely submerged in water. Don't need thumbs with tentacles and shit. This sea brain developed the technology to travel 24hrs back in time and save it's ass, when shit got real. The perfectly evolved aqua creature killing thing. It probably needs some precious resource to pull this off (radioactive?) and eventually runs out and needs more to stay immortal, and why it's visiting Earth. That's why there's only 4 alphas in the movie ever, with the time technology.

When Cage killed the Alpha, the technology spilled on him and he stole it. The Dr. said humans were more susceptible to it. When the 24hrs reverted back, the original alpha became defenseless without the tech and ran away from the battlefield. That's why the hordes of octupus things always did the same action, there was no alpha general to change it up. (also alphas eventually become omegas, just a biological guess)

When Cage finally killed the Omega, he stole its tech as well, and returned 24hrs from that point in time. The Omega realized it had lost its only source of defense on a planet it just tried to jack, completely surrounded, it Hitlered itself. There it is.

Some inconsistencies but I can return to real life. Peace

bgilliatt10406 said...

I've read all your theories, and I still feel there is a large inconsistency.

In the movie the theory that the weapons doctor gives us is that the Omega is the brain, and the Alphas are the nervous system. Whenever an Alpha is killed, its not the Alpha that reverts time, its the Omega trying to prevent the loss of his Alpha.

When the blood of the Alpha is fused with Cage, He then became that Alpha in the nervous system of the Omega, hence why we never see that Alpha again (or could be a plot hole). So every time Cage dies it wasn't him resetting time trying to "get it right" it was the Omega thinking it lost another Alpha. When the other Alpha tried to let him die slowly, it was trying to get the blood of his fellow Alpha out of him because he could sense that Cage was apart of the nervous system and knew that would remove him. I believe that the Omega couldn't tell the difference between Cage or an Alpha (hence why there was an Alpha guarding an empty Dam) the Alphas just go and run things.

I didn't agree with the ending because when he absorbed the Omegas blood, he then became the Omega with the power to choose to "reset". Thereby putting the Omega back into existence only with his knowledge of its location. Nothing else should have changed. The movie doesn't specify why he wakes up where he does, but I feel that it was the Omegas choice to go back to that specific time, every time. Upon his fusing with the Omega blood, that was Cage's choice to go back to where he was still an Officer.

Cage should have woken up on the helo with the knowledge of his X days of reset and the Omegas exact location, nothing else should have changed from the beginning of the film.

Digestive Pyrotechnics said...

I like this one!

couldn't get my head around this plothole though: